Books: ‘The Mysterious Benedict Society’ Finale

Screenshot of Marta Kessler, Mystic Inscho, Seth Carr, and Emmy DeOliveira in ‘The Mysterious Benedict Society’ on Disney+. Copyright goes to the Walt Disney Company and Trenton Lee Stewart.

Hey! Hallie here!

‘The Mysterious Benedict Society’ has been a favorite of mine for many, many years and while I’m sad to see this season come to a close (Hopefully we get a season 2), there’s a lot I want to talk about. Mainly, the major differences between this series and the book. I covered some of these differences in another post, but there’s even more to talk about now. I also want to talk a bit about my feelings on this series now that it’s come to a close, which I’ll do as I talk about each major change I noticed. With all of that to cover, here’s your warning that there are SPOILERS ahead. Let’s get into this!

Kate: This is probably my most negative opinion of a change the show made. Kate was quite a bit more reckless and helpless than she was in the books. Kate going off on her own to explore the tunnels does happen in the first book, but it’s never an attempt to stop Mr. Curtain by herself. Kate does it to aid the entire group in their mission and she doesn’t get caught. Which means that the hunt for the intruder, who was actually Kate, doesn’t happen this way in the book. There is an expected intruder, though. But an intruder is suspected because all four of the children manage to get Reynie spotted while he’s attempting to spy on the Messengers, though he’s fast enough in retreating that no one is certain he’s the intruder. It’s the fault of all of the kids, not just one. While I don’t have an issue with giving Kate more flaws in the series, I don’t appreciate how little we get of Kate as the level-headed badass I loved as a kid. In the books Kate’s circus days, her bucket, and her confidence make her capable in almost every situation. In some cases she’s even compared to Milligan, which makes a lot of sense considering their familial ties. In the series she gets caught after an excursion, taken to be brainwashed where Constance has to save her, and even more infuriating, doesn’t get to participate nearly at all in her fight against Jackson, Jillson, and their reinforcements. In the books she puts up quite a bit of a fight before Milligan intervenes. In the series Kate is first saved by Milligan, and then by Martina and the tetherball team. I’m alright with Kate being more stubborn and antsy than she was in the books, but the fact that she winds up being far less capable and reasonable in the process diminishes her character for me. I didn’t hate this character. I just miss the Kate I knew from the books.

Martina: Now that I’m done talking about my frustrations with Kate, let’s get to a more positive opinion. Martina is nothing more than a brat in the first book. In the series, she’s so much more than that. She has a large ego and wants to beat everyone at everything, but she reveals to Kate pretty early on that she knows other people don’t like her. It’s pretty obvious that she’s lonely. And Kate, by sticking by Martina in order to try to get information from her, gives Martina the impression that someone finally likes her enough to want to be her friend. I loved this storyline. Not only did it make Martina a complex and likable character, but it put Kate in a really interesting situation. Kate, who spends time with Martina only out of a sense of obligation, starts feeling bad for Martina and even begins to enjoy her company. Which leads to a lot of guilt because Martina doesn’t realize that Kate is basically using her. What’s worse, when Kate is caught, it’s Martina who’s initially framed for the intrusion in Kate’s stead. It’s here that Kate has to balance trying to keep Martina safe while also not revealing to Martina that she is the true intruder. When it all goes wrong in the finale, though, Martina doesn’t stay angry at Kate for long. When she comes face to face with Kate and Kate makes the brave decision to accept blame for the intrusion, Martina realizes that part of her friendship with Kate was real. Later on, she takes the tetherball team to fight alongside Kate. This friendship is adorable and I love the depth it gives to both Martina and Kate. I hope this isn’t the last we see of Martina should the series continue.

Milligan: Not too many changes here except there’s a lot more direct contact between Kate and Milligan surrounding the big reveal. Milligan, rather than turning himself in on behalf of all of the children, only turns himself in on behalf of Kate. And after Kate and Milligan are reunited, we get an extremely emotional scene of just the two of them talking about what they each went through while they were separated. I loved these scenes so much. The reveal that Milligan is Kate’s father was one of my favorite plot twists in any book as a kid, and it’s done justice here. The only thing I missed in this series was the reveal that the name Milligan was actually a clue the entire time. In the book, the last words Milligan remembered being said to him before he lost his memories were “Can we go back to the mill again?”, a question asked by a young Kate in reference to her favorite swimming spot. Still, the series didn’t need this piece of information to make this reveal emotionally satisfying.

Constance: Constance changed a lot in this series and I feel it was all for the better. She does a lot more, like telling hilariously gory jokes and building up her relationship with Kate. I also like that the plot twist from the book, which reveals that Constance was actually two years old the entire time, is absent here. It was a bit of a weird plot twist and I don’t see how it could be adapted to the screen. Instead they reveal that she is psychic, which is much cooler. Constance also rejects being adopted by Mr. Benedict in the series, which makes a lot of sense. In the books Constance is reluctant to accept the adoption, and it’s only through the knowledge that Number 2 and Rhonda were also adopted by Mr. Benedict that she hesitantly agrees to it. In the series, Rhonda and Number 2 aren’t as young as they are in the books and their loyalties to Mr. Benedict have nothing to do with adoption. Without this element, it makes sense that Constance wouldn’t be convinced. And let’s be honest, it’s a miracle Mr. Benedict convinced her to accept the adoption in the books.

Mr. Curtain’s Trigger: In the books, Mr. Curtain’s trigger for his narcolepsy is anger. And he’s an angry man so it’s just as easy to trigger his narcolepsy as it is to trigger Mr. Benedict’s. In the series they make a really interesting mystery out of it. It’s only when Reynie tries to reach Mr. Curtain on a personal level that he suddenly falls asleep. Sticky assumes that anger caused this to happen, which is a nice throwback to the books, but Reynie reveals that his actual trigger is vulnerability. That feels a lot more powerful and really cements this Mr. Curtain as much more complex than the one we see in the books.

Sticky’s Happy Ending: This change starts all the way back in Sticky’s backstory. In the books, it’s Sticky’s parents who use his incredible brain to make themselves wealthy, not his aunt and uncle. But also in the first book, it’s revealed that Sticky misunderstood his parents belief that he was better off on his own. His parents turn up to Mr. Benedict’s at the end of the story to explain that they feel remorseful about what they did to Sticky, and it turns out that they felt Sticky was better off without them because of the way they had treated him. They even used up all their money trying to locate Sticky. So Sticky forgives his parents and moves back in with them. This ending for Sticky always bothered me. After all, his parents used him for money and when he ran away, they tried to convince themselves that it was better if they didn’t go searching for him. Meanwhile, Sticky was homeless and living on the streets. No small apology could absolve parents of this kind of treatment. Well, apparently the series agrees. Not only do they change these characters to his aunt and his uncle, but they also don’t make either character remorseful for their actions. Sticky’s happy ending in the series is Mr. Benedict’s promise to get him into the school he wanted to attend before he was recruited into the society. I like this ending much better for him.

These are the largest changes I noticed in the finale of this series. Overall, I really enjoyed ‘The Mysterious Benedict Society’. The majority of its changes made the story richer and deeper. Constance went from my least favorite character in the books, to my favorite character in the series. The reveal that Milligan is Kate’s father was so much more meaningful to me when there was an entire portion of the show dedicated to the adults. This series definitely wasn’t perfect, but I would love to see a season two. I’m not sure about the creators’ idea to merge the next two books into one season, but we’ll see what happens! After what I saw here, I’m completely willing to see whatever they want to write next for this series!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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